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Louisville Will Turn Human Waste To Fertilizer With This Loan

MSD repairs sewer pipe on E Broadway.
MSD repairs sewer pipe on E Broadway.

Kentucky’s oldest and largest wastewater treatment plant has plans to reuse the waste Louisville residents flush down the toilet thanks to a low-interest $97 million loan from the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The project essentially restarts the program formerly known as Louisville Green, which turned sewage to pelletized fertilizer that was sold to farmers, homeowners and golf and sports-field groundskeepers. 

Up until about 60 years ago, Louisville’s sewers — and all they contained — dumped directly into local waterways. 

That changed when the city built the Morris Forman Water Quality Treatment Center. Today, the facility treats our waste and separates the solids from the liquids. The treated water goes to the Ohio River. The solids end up in landfills. 

“We have all these biosolids that are currently going to the landfill and that’s just not sustainable, it’s not good for the environment, it’s not good for really anything, it puts more trucks on the road, etc.,” said Sheryl Lauder, Metropolitan Sewer District spokeswoman. 

Louisville’s MSD will use the loan to finance about half of a nearly $200 million dollar project to process the “solids” into fertilizer. Once complete, the facility will be capable of producing 40,000 tons of “exceptional quality biosolids” per year, according to an EPA news release

The loan will also help finance a waste-to-energy project that will be used to power the facility through thermal hydrolysis. 

“The hope is we will exceed the demand of the facility and have spare power to put back in the grid,” Lauder said. 

The EPA is providing the loan to Louisville through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The loan rate is 2.37% and officials say it will save MSD — and therefore, ratepayers — an estimated $15 million in financing costs. 

“We could not get this rate from any other lending institution. The improvements to our solids handling process will result in a win for our customers and the environment for generations to come,”  said Louisville MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott.


Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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